Mary Winkler talks about her career as a freelance illustrator and textile designer.  You can find her on her website www.acrylicana.com and on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.  

What do you do for a living?

My job title varies. It’s most often listed as “Freelance Illustrator

How would you describe what you do?

Draw and paint for a living. Especially for products (packaging, toys, textiles, accessories).

What does your work entail?

Lots of drawing, sketching, playing around in Photoshop and Illustrator.

What’s a typical work week like?

Nothing is typical about freelancing. It’s scheduled out with deadlines and being social with friends/etc. Working a regular work-week burns me out. So I keep odd hours.

How did you get started?

I started designing accessories and painting on shoes for fun. Began selling some, and eventually worked out multiple lines of products. Those were licensed to companies that may or may not have had moderate success. It’s a fickle business.

What do you like about what you do?

Flexible hours. Also rather fun to be drawing/painting most of the time. Shopping trips, browsing the internet, seeing movies — these are all sources of inspiration and I can call them “work” when I’m low on motivation.

What do you dislike?

Instability being a freelancer. Soemtimes schedules are packed so tightly, running against multiple deadlines for unrelated work. It’s quite the grind. Other times things are very, very dead and it’s a scary place to be.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

All work is commissioned. Each job is different. I work with various rates for different job types. Usually I invoice a client after the work is completed (payment is agreed upon before I begin).

How much money do Textile Designers make?

This varies from person to person. The Artist Guild Handbook has some price lists, but I’ve found each project is different. Since I’m a freelancer, I don’t make a salary and am not guaranteed a specific sum each time (just a margin of error, really).

How much money did/do you make starting out as a Textile Designer?


What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

Technically, you don’t need a degree. You need a portfolio. I studied illustration and happened to have an interest in crafts and design. You need to know how to draw, understand pattern-making, and know the fashion market if you’re keen on textile design (or just understand your clients — marketing is a plus).

What is most challenging about what you do?

Marketing. The whole art thing is the easiest, most fun bit. But getting my work out there to potential clients, consumers, etc is quite the challenge for someone who just wants to paint nonsense all day.

What is most rewarding?

Seeing a finished product. Regardless of what sort of project I’ve worked on, actually seeing it in use is brilliant. Even if I’m just painting custom shoes for someone on the other side of the world.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

You need to know your work, you need self motivation, and you need to be OK with insecurity in your finances. It’s a difficult road to take, any sort of freelancing. Best be prepared t obe ruthless and work 24/7. It can be quite a sacrifice, and one that goes in cycles. At one point you may find some good clients, success…and within a bit of time have to start it all over again.

How much time off do you get/take?

I usually take weekends off these days so I can get out and about. Though, I tend to take my laptop with me. Since I’m self-employed vacations are at my discretion, but I’m a bit of a workaholic.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

They think that just because a project happens, I’m positively successful and rolling in money. There’s a  lot going on behind the scenes, and success at a career like this isn’t something that happens after one project.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

Launching new brands, focusing on some side projects dealing with photography and accessory design, and painting SO much more.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

It’s fun. Not going to lie. Difficult, but SO fun. I get around friends with normal jobs, and it surely beats retail, food services, or sitting in a cubicle all day.